Hard realities behind India’s apparent volte face over Kashmir

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How serious is Indian prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee about a dialogue with Pakistan to resolve the thorny issue of Jammu and Kashmir by peaceful means? In Pakistan there seems to be great euphoria about the volte face in India’s stance, first announced on April 18 by Vajpayee during a visit to Srinagar, capital of Indian-occupied Kashmir.

Do the realities in Kashmir justify such euphoria? Here is a brief summary of the current situation: between April 18 and May 23 (the time of filing this story), the Indian occupation forces had murdered 369 Kashmiri civilians in various parts of the state; at least 21 were killed on May 22, and 14 more the next day. In addition to these figures, 46 were murdered while in Indian custody; 653 were injured or tortured; and 371 were arrested in various parts of the state, according to statistics compiled by the Kashmir Media Service. During the same period 19 women were raped and 23 people disappeared or were abducted.

It is clear that India has intensified its campaign of murder and rape in Kashmir, in an attempt to crush somehow the people’s uprising. What India hopes to achieve by its offer of a dialogue at some undetermined date (Indian defence minister George Fernandes said on May 23 that there is no prospect of talks in the near future) is to get Pakistan to comply with various demands before talks are even scheduled. For instance, since January 12 last year, Pakistan has gone out of its way to prevent the movement of Kashmiri mujahideen across the Line of Control (LoC), which India insultingly calls “cross-border terrorism.” What India could not achieve by means of its 700,000-strong army of occupation since 1989 is being achieved by US pressure on Islamabad.

Similarly, pressure is mounting on Pakistan to close the Kashmiri training-camps in Azad Kashmir as well. This was admitted quite bluntly by Richard Armitage, US assistant secretary of state, after talks with Musharraf in Islamabad on May 8. He said that Musharraf had assured him that such camps would be closed. What this really means is that he had demanded it of the general, who had caved in. In 2001 Musharraf made a great show of his decision to side with the US by reversing a 30-year policy on Afghanistan, making Pakistani territory available for America’s war on the Taliban. He claimed then to have won the friendship of the Americans; perhaps American friendship is now bearing fruit.

Other kinds of pressure are also being applied. India is demanding, and the US agrees, that Kashmiri groups struggling for freedom be disbanded. Pakistan has not complied with this demand so far, but it is likely that under US pressure this too will happen. In fact the US has already declared Hizbul Mujahideen a terrorist group; several other Kashmiri groups are also on the list. Pakistan is being forced to abandon all its options even before formal talks at any level have taken place. India insists on a “composite dialogue”; this is a euphemism for talk about everything under the sun, with Kashmir just one item of many on the agenda.

Indian politicians have conceded that, while Pakistan can maintain its position that Kashmir is disputed territory, Delhi’s interpretation is that Pakistan should vacate its part of Kashmir as well. India argues that Kashmir should be put in “cold storage” for the time being, while the two sides resolve other issues; this will then somehow lead by some magic or other to a formula on Kashmir as well. A similar argument was advanced by K Shankar Bajpai, the former Indian ambassador and foreign secretary, in an article in Foreign Affairs magazine (May/June 2003). He said that, because Pakistan had not defeated India militarily, there was no question of India’s vacating Kashmir.

Even on the question of a moratorium on nuclear testing, India has spurned successive Pakistani offers. While addressing the UN Conference on Disarmament and its relevance for South Asia in Islamabad on May 23, Pakistan foreign secretary Riaz A. Khokar proposed: “We are prepared to discuss with India several measures for nuclear and strategic stability in South Asia, including the formalization of a moratorium on nuclear testing by both countries.” An Indian foreign ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna dismissed the proposal by claiming, “India has a unilateral prohibition on nuclear testing.” After its first nuclear explosion on May 18, 1974, then Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi made the astonishing claim that India’s nuclear explosion was “peaceful”, and that there would be no more tests. Yet on May 12/13, 1998, without any threat from any quarter, the BJP government, headed by none other than A. B. Vajpayee, carried out a series of nuclear explosions.

Indian politicians have a remarkable capacity for speaking from both sides of their mouths; unlike L. K. Advani, his crude-talking deputy, Vajpayee is a master of doublespeak. For instance, in response to the Pakistani proposal of May 7 for a nuclear moratorium, Vajpayee said on May 8 that India’s nuclear programme was not Pakistan-specific, so there was no question of abandoning it even if Islamabad did so.

Amazingly, the Americans, who have been exerting pressure on Pakistan to roll back its nuclear programme, accepted this one-sided Indian position. This gives some indication of which way the wind is blowing: the US is not only working toward establishing the Line of Control in Kashmir as a permanent international boundary between the two countries, depriving the Kashmiris of their right of self-determination, but also wants to strip Pakistan of its nuclear capability. This is not only an Indian obsession; it is also shared by Tel Aviv and Washington. The zionists will not be content until all the Muslim states are deprived of every means of self-defence.

This is essentially what the Americans’ motive is in trying to “settle” the Kashmir dispute. Once Kashmir is out of the way, Washington will argue that there is no need for Pakistan to have nuclear weapons because the threat from India no longer exists. Delhi, meanwhile, can keep its nuclear weapons because it fears an attack from China. In fact, Washington is grooming India for just use against China, which is regarded as a potential military and economic rival to the US.

The Pakistani ruling elites, who are unable to stand up for principles, are rushing headlong into a trap set by the Indians and Americans (one can probably also see the zionist hand in the background) to turn Pakistan into a vassal of India. Talk about trade, cultural and sports links will ultimately lead to an environment in which Pakistan will be told to forget about Kashmir because there are good prospects for money-making and bringing “prosperity” to their respective peoples. The argument is seductive, but it ignores the valid aspirations of Kashmir’s people.

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